The next SAT test date is March 9th, 2019, which means it's time to enter "cramming mode". We've got some advice on how to crush the SAT with some tips you'll be able to put directly on your calendar.
But first, you've got to have your head in the right place. Preferably, um...right on top of your neck.
Here's some advice from our favorite martial artist:
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water.” - Bruce Lee
Yeah. Bruce Lee is the only person we quote more often than Shakespeare.
Now...let only a single thought enter your mind: you're going to slaughter the SAT in a couple weeks. With Shmoop as your Bruce-Lee-quoting trainer, we’re going to get you in tip-top shape to cruise through the SAT sections like Bruce cruised through his opponents. But hopefully with slightly less bloodshed.
However, as Bruce implies in his quote, you’ll have to be flexible, adaptive, and prepared to relearn some approaches to test-taking in order to conquer this new foe. If you can approach test prep with determination and an open mind, you can move mountains in just two weeks.
How? Don’t worry, young grasshopper. We’ve got a plan.
1. Take a practice SAT.
First, get familiar with the format of the exam and know what to expect for the test-taking experience. Take a practice test from start to finish, and try to recreate the test day environment as closely as possible. Here's a run-down of what you'll need to do to create your very own SAT experience simulation, no Oculus Rift required.
- Print out one of the official tests from College Board or pull up one of Shmoop's practice exams. Sharpen those No. 2s (the pencils, not the stool samples) and get ready to bask in the graphited glory of multiple-choice bubbles.
- Find a library or other quiet area. Remember you won't get your choice of desk on test day, and there might be some annoying kid sniffling right next to you the entire time. In other words, the testing environment you use should contain some elements of randomness in it. You'll have to learn to deal with that, since germ-infested test-takers will totally be allowed to sit next to you on game day.
- Get out a stop watch or use your phone to time yourself. You won't be able to use a phone on test day—and your watch might end up being too hi-tech to be allowed into the testing room—but for practicing, it's probably your most convenient option. (Unless, of course, you want to hire your very own SAT proctor to sit and watch you, and only you, take the test. A little weird, but to each his own.) Here's the schedule you or your personal proctor should implement:
Reading: 65 minutes
Break: 10 minutes
Writing and Language: 35 minutes
Math (No Calculator Section): 25 minutes
Break: 5 minutes
Math (Calculator): 55 minutes
Essay (if taking): 50 minutes
Stick to the timing for each section, only use a calculator when you’re permitted, etc. It’s important what you’ll be required to do on test day as much as you can so that we can have an idea of your baseline score.
- As you take the exam, mark up all the answers you're unsure about. You'll return to these either after your practice session is over, or while you still have some time on the clock.
- Score your exam! Here you can find information on scoring and an answer key to the official College Board tests. Review the scores for the schools that you’re considering applying to with this information in mind, and set a target score for where you want to be at the end of these two weeks. You might be wondering, what is a good SAT score? Shmoop can help you with that.
After these four hours of solid work, bask in your glory and call it a day. It’s a major accomplishment to come face to face with the SAT for the first time, and completing the whole test is no small feat.
Do you hear that? In the distance? Is it the Rocky theme? Might be, because this is the start of your victory montage.
2. Analyze your practice exam; assess your weaknesses and strengths.
Identify the questions that you got wrong and the concepts underlying them. If you aced the evidenced-based questions on the Reading Test, then expect to put those on the back burner for now. You'll miss some awesome Lady Gaga references if you don't look at our guide on the SAT Reading Test, but it's okay. There may be time to go back to them later.
Here are some ways to strategically attack your weaknesses and strengths once you've graded your exam.
- Make a list of all of the problem areas that came up in your weakest section. Return to your practice exam and go back to the questions in the weakest section...the one you had doubts about. Yes, you may have to re-read entire passages, but you can luxuriate in the amount of time you have to think about each question. Sure, it's not as much fun as soaking in a hot bubble bath, but thinking about a few difficult problems in depth will pay off later. And it won't make your skin all wrinkly.
- Ask yourself: Why did you get certain questions incorrect? Which questions were you uncertain about? No, being psychic is not an acceptable answer, though we are impressed and would like to talk post-SAT about the rights to your eventual superhero movie and spinoff. For now, however, know if you guessed or if you’re really confident in each underlying concept before moving on to the next one.
- Make a very careful note of each question you got wrong, and why. Search for patterns to the questions that you missed, like if they were all geometry problems and you had trouble applying certain formulas (which, mind you, will be given to you in the beginning of the math section in the ‘Reference’ section), or if you just can’t get your head around verb consistency in writing section questions. Make note of each of these trouble areas, and find drills like the awesome ones provided on Shmoop.com(#notbiased) that will test you on that exact material.
3. Internalize some targeted SAT Tips and Tricks and incorporate them into your test-taking habits.
Read our Tips and Tricks for the section that you are weakest in. Do two untimed Shmoop drills per day or do one half of the relevant section from one of the College Board's practice SATs. Be sure to follow Shmoop-recommended strategies to help boost your score.
Forgo your usual two hours of screen time each day to study—sure, you might fall behind on posting selfies on Instagram, but you can catch up once the SAT is over and done with. (Or you can try to start a trend; #studyingfortheSATselfie with your hottest study bee look, complete with #2 pencil accessories.)
4. Find examples of good essays.
If you're taking the SAT Essay, search for two highly scored essays online, and read them closely. Did you use some of the same tricks in your own essay? Can you clearly identify why these essays got such good scores? Take some time to also read Shmoop's guide on how to write a strong SAT essay.
5. Spend your last few study sessions reviewing rather than covering new material.
Now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. Go back to your weakest section, the notes you took on the problem areas therein, and the questions that you got wrong. If you're using Shmoop's SAT Test Prep, you'll be able to keep track of the types of questions that you miss, and you'll see information on how to master the associated concepts. If you're using College Board's practice exams, you'll have to try to categorize those questions yourself. Check out Shmoop's guide on the various sections to see the most commonly tested SAT concepts.This way, you’ll get the most practice on what’s most important. Because your time is precious. And we really believe that, no matter how much time you spend playing Trivia Crack on the toilet.